Ahp is a fictional exploration of a female spirit character popular in Cambodian folklore. In this work, I explore the psychology of a community through a local myth.
In Cambodia, horror as a theme is woven into the country’s imagination. The four years of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s was a brutal time, resulting in genocide and mass repatriation. But even centuries before that, Cambodia was a theatre of war because of constant invasions by more powerful neighbouring kingdoms. It was during one of these invasions by the rulers of Siam that the character of Ahp, a beautiful woman who is cursed to wander unfulfilled, was born. Since then there have been several local versions of the Ahp. Passed on orally, these stories adapt and modify themselves to specific regions and times.
The Ahp is not just a character but a recurring idea in the community’s mythical and psychological landscape. The common thread in all these stories is her position as the beautiful, forbidden and feared ‘other’. With the character of the Ahp as a protagonist, this work explores the relationship between themes of horror and women, with particular relevance to Cambodia.
The photographs in these pages were part of a larger body of work exhibited at the recently concluded Chennai Photo Biennale. These were published in the April-June 2019 issue.